Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Life Aquatic

Wes Anderson is the master of the final scene. I recently watched "The Darjeeling Limited" and "The Life Aquatic" and Wes Anderson's style is every bit as quirky and indy as his critiques have pegged him for.

The magic of Wes Anderson as a movie maker is not in the beginning or even in the middle of his films. Wes does not bother with the usual conventions of story telling but rather treats the camera as a scrapbook hobbiest would approach a collection of paper and old photographs. It's only long after the audience experiences the characters and their interactions do we come to understand the meaning of it at all, and that is where Wes ties up the entire project with the visual that defines everything.

For Darjeeling Limited, the visual was the brothers losing their emotional baggage as they jumped back upon the train of life - the vehicle they were forced to leave to achieve their moment of enlightenment. For Life Aquatic, it was Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) sitting with his back to the theater premier of his new film and placing a young boy high on his shoulders, symbolically honoring his childlike fascination of everything new and mysterious in the sea, and by extension the mysteries of life.

The beauty of these movies is in the gorgeous use of the symbolic, without which we would be lost in a sea of images that would appear every bit as disjointed, ironic and plot-less as our own lives may appear to ourselves.

Yet, it is only the appearance of meaninglessness that is true, not the substance of the event itself, which is why Wes Anderson's style is one of the most effective mirrors of our own human experience.

We do not live in a 30 minute sitcom. The camera crew does not go home at the end of a life event and often times the resolution is not as apparent or clean or even as honorable as popular entertainment would have us believe it should or could be.

Sometimes, life is just what it is and if we can accept that bit of truth, the experience becomes far more beautiful than it ever could be without that realization.

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